Fleetwood Town manager Graham Alexander took the time out of his busy pre-season schedule to talk to PNE.Com ahead of North End’s trip to Highbury on Saturday.
The Lilywhites legend spent nine tremendous years at Deepdale as a player, making over 400 appearances for the Club and scoring 65 goals – no mean feat for a defender.
Following his playing career, the 41-year-old tried his hand at coaching – starting at PNE’s academy – before breaking into first team management at Highbury, in December 2012.
Now in his first pre-season as a head coach, Alexander is looking forward to the 2013/14 campaign – especially after observing his team on their summer training camp in Austria.
“We went to Austria for a week, it was a good one because we’ve got eight new players so it was a chance for them to get to know their new teammates,” Graham said.
“We took a 22 man squad so it was a good time for everyone to get to know each other and get their work done.
“The facilities out there are fantastic, I’ve been there before, ten years ago with Preston as a player, and I just remembered what a great place it was to train.”
Fleetwood have evidently been busy in the transfer market already this summer, though ‘Grezza’ insist his new signings have already settled into life on the Fylde coast.
“They’re going great, because it’s always hard for a player walking into a new club, but I think a few of them are in the same boat, there’s eight new boys,” he continued.
“The lads who were here last season have really brought them into the group and it’s great to see because they’re pushing each other in their work.”
Meanwhile, the former penalty expert was full of praise for Nathan Pond, whose testimonial will be celebrated at the game on Saturday afternoon.
He said: “It’s a fantastic achievement. I think more than the ten years, it’s staying with Fleetwood in their rapid rise into the Football League.
“I think he’s been part of five promotions so he’s obviously improved his own game and stayed loyal to Fleetwood.
“It’s a fantastic story, I spoke to Pondy before and I spoke to him about his first ever game there and how he’s still part of the Club and he’s still at a good age at only 27 and he’s been here ten years.
“The Fleetwood fans see him as one of theirs, I think he loves playing for the Club which is a big thing, and I think this game tomorrow is born for him.”
Alexander also spoke of his delight at welcoming his former Club to his new home and believes the match, in honour of Pond’s time at Highbury, will be played in a competitive spirit.
“It’s a great game for us and a great game for Preston as well,” he said.
“I don’t think it’ll be played as a testimonial, I think it’ll be more of a competitive game which I am, and I’m sure Simon, is looking for.”
The Cod Army boss is also confident of a big turnout at the game and praised both Fleetwood and PNE fans for their loyal support.
“I believe the fans will turn out in force for Pondy because he’s part of the Club,” he added.
“I’m sure the Preston fans will follow their team as well, it’s only a short journey up the road and they’ll be excited to see their new players.
“I know they had the game against Liverpool last week but I’m sure they’ll come up and support their Club, as they always do.”
North End’s new signing Kevin Davies hopes to make his debut for the Lilywhites at Highbury, and Alexander can still recall his first encounter with the England international.
“I know Kevin a little, I trained with Bolton for a few weeks before I re-joined Preston and got to know him,” he said.
“I played against him, even when he was 17 and we were both in League Two, I was at Scunthorpe and he was at Chesterfield and he was a tough opponent then and nothing’s changed.”